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Carpenter or Joiner

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Carpenter or Joiner

The Work

Carpenters and joiners make and install the wooden fixtures and fittings found in household and commercial construction projects. These include floorboards, kitchen and bathroom units, window frames and doors, roof trusses and wall partitions.

As a carpenter or joiner, your work may fall into one or more of the following areas:

  • formwork building temporary shuttering to support setting concrete, for example on motorway bridge supports or building foundations
  • machining cutting and shaping timber for floorboards, skirting boards and window frames
  • bench joinery making and assembling doors, window frames, staircases and fitted furniture
  • first fixing (site work) fitting the wooden structures, such as floor and roof joists, roof timbers, staircases, partition walls, and door and window frames
  • second fixing (site work) installing skirting boards, door surrounds, doors, cupboards and shelving, as well as door handles and locks
  • shopfitting making and fitting interiors for shops, hotels, banks, offices and public buildings.

You could be skilled in all of these or you may specialise in just one or two.


Hours and Environment

You would work between 39 and 45 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Overtime at weekends or evenings may be necessary.

Site work and formwork would involve working outdoors in all weathers, up ladders and on scaffolding or roofs. As a bench joiner or shopfitter, you would work indoors where conditions could be dusty. You would use protective equipment on all jobs.

You would normally travel between sites and some jobs may require overnight stays away from home.

Skills and Interests

  • good practical skills
  • a methodical approach to work
  • an eye for detail
  • the ability to follow technical drawings and plans
  • good maths skills for measuring and working out angles
  • a reasonable level of fitness
  • the ability to work as part of a team and unsupervised
  • an awareness of health and safety.


You do not need any formal qualifications to become a carpenter or joiner, but employers tend to want people with some on-site experience. If you have not worked in construction before, then you could work as a joiner's mate or labourer to gain site experience. Once working, your employer may be willing to offer you training in carpentry and joinery.

You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. To be eligible, you may need GCSEs in subjects such as maths, English and design and technology, or vocational qualifications such as BTEC Introductory Certificate or Diploma in Construction. For more information on Apprenticeships, visit

As an alternative, you could take a college course in carpentry and joinery. This would give you some of the skills needed for the job, but employers may still want to see some site experience.

Relevant courses include:

  • BTEC First Diploma in Construction (carpentry options)
  • City & Guilds Basic Construction Skills award: Carpentry and Joinery (6217)
  • CSkills Level 2 Diploma in Site Carpentry.

For more details about courses, contact ConstructionSkills and your local college. ConstructionSkills also has general information on building careers and qualifications.

The Know Your Place campaign aims to promote the construction trades as a career choice for women.


Once you start work, you could take on-the-job NVQ qualifications, such as Wood Occupations levels 1 to 3. The award contains several options, including:

  • Bench Work marking, setting out and producing joinery products
  • Site Work installing first and second fixings and structural components
  • Shopfitting manufacturing and installing internal and external frames, shop fronts, fixtures and finishings
  • Timber Frame Erection putting up timber frame walls, laying floors and fixing roof structures
  • Wheelwrighting marking out, making and assembling carriage joinery products.

The Institute of Carpenters (IOC) also offers various craft awards for carpenters and joiners looking to improve their range of skills and qualifications. For more details contact the IOC.

Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)
Many building contractors now insist that you have a CSCS card to work on their sites. The card is proof of your skills and competence. To get your card you must:

  • pass a health and safety assessment
  • have an NVQ or equivalent qualification.

If you are working without qualifications, you may be able to use On-Site Assessment and Training (OSAT) or Experienced Worker Practical Assessment (EWPA) to get your NVQ and card. Contact CSCS or SkillsDirect for further details.

Traditional Building Skills Bursary Scheme

The Traditional Building Skills Bursary scheme aims to address skills shortages within the traditional crafts and built heritage sector, by offering bursaries and organising work-based training placements for eligible applicants.

To find out more about the scheme, eligibility and what placements are available, visit the Traditional Building Skills Bursary Scheme website.


Many carpenters and joiners are self-employed. You could also find work with large construction companies, local authorities, shopfitting firms or in set-building for theatre and television.

Vacancies may advertised in the local and national press and Jobcentre Plus. You could also find work through word of mouth.

With experience, you could progress to site supervision, clerk of works and construction management roles, or move into a specialised area, such building restoration or prop making. You could also work in kitchen and bathroom fitting or move into teaching.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading: (links open in a new window)

Construction Jobs Network 
Directgov (Jobseekers page) 
The Stage (for vacancies in television and theatre)

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income

  • Starting salaries are between 13,000 and 16,000 a year.
  • Qualified joiners earn between 17,000 and 23,000.
  • Experienced joiners can earn up to 28,000 a year.

Overtime and shift allowances will increase income. Self-employed carpenters and joiners set their own rates.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.
To submit your CV directly to The Rich Works please complete the form below.


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